In most people, there is inadequate space between the second molars and the end of the jaw bone, leading to impaction of the wisdom teeth during their development. Complications associated with impacted wisdom teeth are well documented supporting its rational for early removal. But just how long can one wait before infection or inflammation occurs around wisdom teeth?
Providing there is no existing pathology such as cysts, a good determinant on when to extract the wisdom teeth is their position in the jaw bone and whether or not they have broken through the overlying bone barrier. Developing wisdom teeth are initially surrounded completely with bone which keeps the area sterile and free of infection. However, as soon as the wisdom teeth break through the bone, a micro-gap develops under the overlying gum tissue which often harbors oral plaque and bacteria. The overlying gum tissue makes wisdom teeth inaccessible for effective removal of plaque build-up and bacteria which leads to inflammation (pericoronitis) or infection.
Once wisdom teeth break through the bone barrier, it is impossible to predict when inflammation or infection can start. Therefore the best time to remove wisdom teeth is either right before or at the time when they break through this bone barrier and while they are free of inflammation or infection. This generally takes place between ages of 15 to 17. If the teeth have already erupted beyond the bone or gum tissue level, then they should be removed as soon as possible to prevent potential complications. The worse time to extract teeth is when infection or inflammation has already occurred because of higher likelihood of healing complications or post-operative infection.
So if you are awaiting for your next spring or winter break to remove your wisdom teeth and they have broken through the bone barrier, there is no crystal ball to predict when infection may happen. It’s best to remove them as soon as possible and if you can not, then simply try to keep them as clean as possible to minimize chances of infection.